One in ten Scottish 11-year-olds has used illegal drugs

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The Independent Online

At least 10 per cent of 11-year-olds have taken illegal drugs, according to a study of first-year Scottish secondary school pupils made by Glasgow University. Urgent action needs to be taken to intervene to stop vulnerable children beginning a life of drug dependency, the report's authors say.

At least 10 per cent of 11-year-olds have taken illegal drugs, according to a study of first-year Scottish secondary school pupils made by Glasgow University. Urgent action needs to be taken to intervene to stop vulnerable children beginning a life of drug dependency, the report's authors say.

Drugs taken by youngsters ranged from cannabis through to termazepam and even "hard" drugs such as heroin. The research also suggested that drug taking is as common among middle-class children as those from deprived backgrounds.

Professor Neil McKeganey and John Norrie, a statistical expert, told the Scotland on Sunday newspaper yesterday that the study has revealed drug abuse is more widespread among this age group than previously believed. They are calling on the Government to set up an at-risk register of pre-teens likely to become drug addicts.

"It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a significant number of these young people are at considerable risk of developing patterns of longer-term, dependent drug use in the future. If we are to reduce the likelihood of such an outcome it will be necessary to develop early interventions with those children at greatest risk." They believe such an at-risk register could represent the best opportunity of reducing illegal drug use.

The survey involved 930 children from schools in Dundee, Perth and Kinross and Lanarkshire. Some 105 children from all social classes told researchers that they had used drugs. The most common was cannabis. Overall 11.4 per cent reported illegal drug use, ranging from 10.1 per cent in Perthshire to 12 per cent in Lanarkshire.

Professor McKeganey says the similarity of the two patterns was surprising. The 11-year-olds from Perthshire in the survey are from an affluent and largely rural area, while their counterparts from Lanarkshire lived in an underprivileged and urban area.

Nearly half those who admitted drug use said that someone in their close family was also taking drugs. In most cases it was a slightly older member, a brother, sister or cousin. But in about 20 per cent of cases it was the father, mother, aunt or uncle.

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